I’m Michael Fuhlhage, born in Missouri but brought up to learn the love of Larry Brown, Wilt Chamberlain and all things Kansas basketball while growing up in a small town north of Lawrence. A dozen years in the news industry raised Big Burning Questions that sent me back to grad school, which led me to my current position teaching journalism and mass communication courses at Auburn University.

Who am I? How did I get here? Back to my quest to answer those Big Burning Questions. About the end of my first year at the Missouri School of Journalism, the man who would become my thesis adviser, George Kennedy, asked when I was going to start my master’s. “In the fall” seemed like a pretty good response, and thus I was off and running, chipping away at the degree one or two courses a semester while serving as a professional practice track assistant professor and news editor at the Columbia Missourian.

I liked what I got to dig into during my master’s program so much that I went back for a second helping, this time at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I earned a Ph.D. in Mass Communication in 2010. Now I teach at Auburn University. Most of my work is in professional skills courses in journalism, but I also teach journalism history and the occasional grad seminar. The retooled version of the course I devised in fall 2011, Seminar in Propaganda and Public Opinion, is off the ground and running now.

I’ll use this blog to share my thinking about new directions for the study of propaganda (if you hadn’t noticed, domestic propaganda by the U.S. Information Agency is now legal again as of this summer, thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act). That opens some interesting new areas of inquiry for those like me who are interested in the overlaps between agenda-setting theory, framing, priming, and Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda Model. It’ll also be a place for showing you the back of the house on my research program.

Since my research concentrates on the ways mass media are used to project and correct injustice based on ethnic and racial difference, from time to time I’ll also share my work on the ways the image of Latinos has evolved in the news media. I approach this problem by two prongs: the prehistory of stereotypes about Latinos in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands during the mid-nineteenth century, and the ways news organizations in rural areas with largely Anglo populations have adapted to the demographic change brought by the arrival of Mexican and other Latin Americans drawn by jobs at industrial-scale meatpacking and processing plants.

Naturally, I keep myself open to targets of opportunity. Auburn’s libraries have fantastic resources for studying the Antebellum South and issues of race during Reconstruction. Those issues, largely involving black-white relations, profoundly influenced white-brown relations in ways that deserve deeper exploration. Changing populations bring challenges in media and other institutions, and it’s my my hope to shed light on the ways news media adjust and are affected by demographic, economic, and social change.

On the theme of change, I’ll also share insights about the shifting landscape of journalism and reporters’ and editors’ evolution into the exciting new digital world. Being a cultural historian/new media journalism teacher makes me kind of a rare hybrid. Yet this combination is not so strange. History holds lessons in adaptation and warnings about the failure to adapt. It gives us exemplars who innovated and whose logics of innovation we may emulate as we confront the challenges of a shifting news industry. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring these topics with me. On the shift from legacy media to digital media in particular, more heads are far better than one. Thus, I invite comments and conversation.